Standing and smiling in the middle of the court, Brooke Austin was swarmed by eight screaming Gators. After a jumping huddle with the team and assistant coaches, high fives came from every direction as “It’s great to be a Florida Gator” echoed through Georgia’s indoor tennis facility.
The Gators women’s tennis team is going to play for a national championship.
With a 4-2 win over Vanderbilt in the Final Four, Florida was able to get revenge against the conference foe that beat it two times earlier this season. It also gave coach Roland Thornqvist his 400th win in his 16-year tenure at Florida.
Rain caused the start time of the match to be shifted constantly throughout the day. Originally scheduled to play outdoors at 4 p.m., lightning forced the game indoors three hours later.
Florida came ready to play on Monday, starting strong in doubles. Anna Danilina and Ingrid Neel were first off the court with a quick and easy 6-1 win over Vandy’s Astra Sharma and Emily Smith.
After trading points to tie the set at 3-all, Austin and Kourtney Keegan pulled away to win 6-4 over Sydney Campbell and Emma Kurtz.
Singles proved to be much more difficult for the Gators as Vanderbilt held its own. Josie Kuhlman was the first to go down. Kuhlman, who sat out in the Gators’ last match against Vandy in the SEC title game, proved to be no contest for Campbell as she quickly lost 6-4, 6-1.
Building off of Campbell’s win, the Commodores extended their lead to 2-1 as Christina Rosca fought it out against Ingrid Neel and defeated the freshman 7-5, 6-4.
Because Georgia’s indoor facility only has four courts, the No. 5 and No. 6 position were forced to wait until two courts had cleared in order to start their matches. Once Austin and Keegan came in at five and six, respectively, things began to look up for Florida.
In what was a battle of a match, Anna Danilina was the next Gator off the court with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 win over Kurtz.
Now tied at 2 all, Belinda Woolcock put Florida back in the lead with a 6-7, 6-2, 6-0 win over Sharma.
Then, after dominating the entire day, Austin provided the clinching match with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Georgina Sellyn.
This is only the second time in their last seven meetings that Florida has beaten Vanderbilt.
The Gators are set to play Stanford for the National Championship today at 5 p.m.
Contact Spencer Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @spencemthompson.
Brooke Austin hits a backhand during Florida's 4-2 win against Oklahoma State on Feb. 18, 2017, at the Ring Tennis Complex.